The Banks home is a madhouse, the children are out of control, the parents are unhappy but don’t despair, Mary Poppins is flying in to restore order with “A Spoonful of Sugar.”
Mary is the “Practically Perfect” nanny who mysteriously arrives at the Banks home to manage the mischievous children and rescue the parents with her magic.
“Mary Poppins,” being co-produced by The Theatre in the Park and the Jewish Community Center, opens at 7:30 Saturday in White Theatre at the JCC.
“I’m excited to be playing Mary Poppins,” said Jennifer Renfrow. “I’ve dreamed about it since I saw the show on Broadway. I think we all could use a Mary Poppins in our lives.”
“I especially like the way Mary goes into difficult situations with a smile and complete confidence in her ability to make everyone discover for themselves how to work through their problems,” Renfrow said.
“My son, Ben, and I decided to audition for ‘Mary Poppins’ just hoping to get a part in the show. I really wanted to be Mary but I would’ve taken anything that came along,” she said. “I love the show’s beautiful music, the beautiful songs.”
Ben, 11, landed a role, too. He portrays Michael Banks, who likes to play pranks on the family nanny, and longs for more attention from his father. Mary soon perceives it as the cause of his behavior.
“I’m having a lot of fun being Michael. It’s a good part,” said Ben. “It’s one of my favorite shows and being in it is neat.”
“Mary Poppins” was Renfrow’s first experience at flying around the stage. “It’s exhilarating. I had no fear whatsoever. I felt safe every time I went up,” she said. “I like riding roller coasters so this is easy for me.”
Renfrow graduated from Central Missouri State in 1999. She and her husband, Casey, founded Center Stage Academy of Performing Arts 17 years ago in Warrensburg. “We work with aspiring young performers ages 2 to 18,” she said.
Bert, a charismatic jack-of-all trades currently a chimney sweep, knows all about Mary’s magical world. His part is played by Erik Meixelsperger who auditioned specifically for that role. “My daughter, Zoey, likes Bert and convinced me to try out. You can’t say no to a 7-year-old,” he said.
Meixelsperger, who lives in Shawnee and attended Saint Thomas Aquinas high school, will be moving to Florida when “Mary Poppins” completes its run. He’s been accepted in the Master of Fine Arts program at Florida State University’s branch in Sarasota.
George Banks, who seldom spends time with his children, is portrayed by Eric Schwerdtfager. “I enjoy playing George. He undergoes a huge transition after Mary gets her message across that family is more important than business deals.”
Schwerdtfager is a graduate of Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina with a degree in bio-chemistry. He moved to Shawnee a year ago. “Acting has always been a passion of mine. I’m excited about the opportunity to start performing in this area. I’m an actor and a singer, and on request, a dancer,” he said with a laugh.
Wendy Musick was excited to land a role in the play.
“I really wanted to be in ‘Mary Poppins’ and I hoped to get the role of Winifred Banks. I’m so happy I did,” Musick said. “I think she’s the heart of the show. Her husband is unhappy. She is so loving and desperately wants to please him.”
“I love performing. Most of my theatre experience has been on a smaller scale,” said Musick, who lives in Raymore, Mo.
Jane Banks is played by Emery Hankins, a seventh-grader in middle school in Olathe. This is her first experience in community theater.
“It’s cool. I like being Jane. She’s fun,” said Emery, 12.
Sarah Montoya, Blue Springs, plays Mrs. Brill, the Banks’ maid. She’s overworked and often stressed by the behavior of the children and the demands placed on her by the family.
“Mary Poppins” is the third show co-produced by The Theatre in the Park and the Jewish Community Center following “Hairspray” in 2013 and “Shrek” in 2015. Tim Bair, producing artistic director at The Theatre in the Park, directs the show at both theaters. They share expenses and each theater keeps its own gate receipts.
“Any time you can share expenses it’s good for everyone,” Bair said.
“Mary Poppins” plays Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday and runs July 14, 16, 21 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and July 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. in White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park.
The show moves to The Theatre in the Park in Shawnee Mission Park July 29, 30, 31 and Aug. 3, 4, 5, 6. Curtain time is 8:30 p.m. for all shows.